But having spent the entire morning in the Big Top, I am grateful for the relief, especially as we dealt in a joint plenary with spouses on a sensitive issue that leaves many without defenses, the issue of gender violence. Seating in the tent was divided in half, one side for women, one side for men, because the issue is not safe to talk about for everyone. Jenny Te Paa, principal of the theological school at St John’s College, in Aukland, New Zealand, introduced the topic, after which came a play depicting various encounters of women with Jesus in the gospels. Then the Conference Bible study convenor, Gerald West, from the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, led a Bible study on 2 Samuel 13:1-22. It's hard to imagine a Bible study with 1400 of one's closest friends, but Dr. West, with the others on the Bible study team, managed to pull it off. Jim Naughton has a fine summary here.
Here is a place where the Lambeth Conference can exert real influence, both in our various cultures and in our Churches. I was very glad that we did the work, and the dynamic across the divide of the room, women's side and men's side, was instructive. At various moments it became obvious, from the level of applause and other noise, that there was a point which the women especially wanted us men to hear. It was both thrilling and humbling to be under that great blue canopy.
Let us be clear that gender violence still occurs at startling rates in our own country, in our state, and in the communities where we live. There are parishes and ministries in the Diocese of Missouri who have devoted themselves to responding to this injustice, in the name of Jesus. We just need more of these responses.
Tonight after Evensong, Archbishop Rowan delivered his second presidential address to the Conference. He gave us a sobering assessment of our situation, and of the challenges facing us as the end of the Conference draws near. I hope that you read his address, and that you will note his daring to speak for the two sides across the divide in our Communion, as well as his asking each side for a gracious love as we make decisions. It is a clear and compelling diagnosis, I believe; the invitation into a "covenant of fate," described last night by Rabbi Sacks, may provide a template for finding a way forward, from the diagnosis offered.